The Irish Countryman by Arensberg was a very interesting society in many aspects. Their way of life, their level of trust and respect, and their beliefs and priorities all make up the unique society that they all engage in. The Irish were very in touch with the spirit world both mentally and physically on a day to day basis. They continuously strived to please the fairies because they believed that if they behaved properly and morally correct, they will in turn be rewarded. They believed that everything happened for a reason and that nothing was a coincidence.
Whether good or bad, if something happened it was because the spirits intended it to happen that way. They considered the people who are very dedicated and deeply in touch with Catholicism the good people. They were the ones that contribute to the community and treat themselves with respect. The Irish are deeply involved in religion because it gives them a sense of cohesion and a sense of humanity after the abuse the English put them through. At the same time, their dedication towards their religion gives them a sense of control as a whole. Their religion was a basis for their identity.
Religion in a society, reflects society, rather than imposes itself on society. Every family committed to the market place in a peripheral way. They were obligated to sell a certain number of animals (usually calves), in order to receive money in exchange. The idea of trust is remarkable among these people. Individuals would buy goods on credit and pay for them whenever they sold some animals. When a person was going to migrate, the shopkeepers would lend them money with the expectation that the person would send them back the money whenever he/she got the chance.
There is a strong sense of community which makes it possible for the shopkeepers to be so close and generous to the people. This was a common trust among their society which is extraordinary. The Irish society is mostly composed of peasants living in rural areas with insufficient land. They were a polygenous society in which the political aspect of the community was dominated by an outside force. Matchmaking marriage was the most respectable. Most women either didn’t get married at all or got married very late. The process of marriage was very intricate and involved.
The female’s parents are very particular when choosing who their daughter is going to marry. They make sure he comes from a good family and that he is going to inherit a lot of land in order to gain status to the family. On the other hand, the man is more concerned with the level of intelligence that the woman has. The woman has to be very responsible in the sense that she has many obligations to fulfill around the house. Such obligations include feeding, agricultural work, raising the children, and maintaining the household on a day to day basis.
When a couple decides to get married, the parents of the husband move into the west room of the house. They are usually around 60 years old and remain in this room until their death. The West room had very special character and in itself, had its own spiritual quality. This is where everything that is considered sacred and respectable is placed such as furniture, pictures, symbols, etc. Nothing is built west of this room. The explanation for this is the sun rises in the east which signifies life, and the sun sets in the west which signifies death.
The West room is where the fairies go and nobody is permitted to enter this room without permission. The relationship between a son and his father is an everlasting bond of respect and love. Even though the father passes down the land to his son and gives his son full rights of the property, the son still acknowledges everything the father says. A clear example of the level of respect a son shows towards his father is if they both go to the market place, the son can purpose a deal but he never closes the deal without his father’s approval.
If there is little tobacco left in the house, the son will not accept it and pass it to his father. These are little things that demonstrate his respect and appreciation towards his father which I find to be quite remarkable. Basically the Irish demonstrate that there can be no equality between generations. The older generation is always superior. Tradition says that if you have land and a son you should pass down the land as soon as you marry off your son. If you don’t have a son, usually there are blood relatives or other family’s sons that you can adopt who come from less fortunate families.
There was a situation where a man did not pass down his land to his nephew because he decided to keep it. Within time, there were shots fired into his house and he assumed it was his nephew doing it out of spite and resentment. A couple days later, his nephew was working in the field and was hit in the eye and blinded. Of course his nephew blamed his uncle and said he did it out of retaliation by getting in touch with the spirits. This was considered the Old Man’s Curse. The Irish society has an enormous amount of sophistication in a sense that they have a low living standard and the majority is rural.
They provide fantastic literature, poetry, and a sense of arts. They have a very special relationship with the shopkeeper which is highly revered. The father is considered the king of the house because he’s the one that owns all the land which gives him total control. The fairies are of great importance to the people because they contain a significant influence in everyday life “with the spirit world. ” The day to day lives of these people were revolving around the fairies and everything else such as their history and ancestry revolved around Catholicism. This was considered syncretism.
In general, there was a tight connection between the physical, mental, and spiritual world among the Irish society. The author of Never in Anger made an anthropological visit to the Utku during the summer of 1963. Jean Briggs, who is the author, finds out that the Utku Eskimos became a much more modernized society in many aspects. Briggs went there to study shamanism and she came to realize that they rejected shamanism and accepted Christianity. These people prayed regularly but had no priest among them. The Utku was an Eskimo settlement in northwest Canada where the Eskimos lives under very harsh conditions.
This was a bilateral as well as nomadic society that mainly depended on fishing. Enutiak was the man that took Briggs into his home and basically “adopted her. ” Eskimos are generally illiterate but all the members of the family were literate. During the winter, Briggs lived with Enutiak and his entire family and during the summer, she had her own tent. In the winter time, everyone in the family sleeps in a line-up beginning with the mother on one end, then the new-born, then the father, and then the rest of the children.
Briggs slept on the end of the line but was indeed treated as a family member. When there was a new birth in the family, the child that used to sleep between the father and mother moves to the opposite side of the father and allows the new-born to take his/her place. This arrangement produces a sense of disappointment for the child that has been relocated to the other side of the father. The parents are aware of this effect and really go out of their way to make the child realize that it’s not because he/she is loved less, but it’s because a new baby needs to be fully supervised and tended to.
One distinct characteristic about the Utku’s is that they adore their children and show great care and affection. The Utkus associated themselves with other families on a regular basis. They were a more or less friendly society. These people were more involved with where the Christian missionaries resided which was called GJoa Haven. Having committed to Christianity, they gave up a lot of the old Eskimo traditions. They gave up shamanism, they gave up si??ances, they gave up animism, and they gave up partnerships.
The original Eskimo tradition of partnership was that each man had roughly 14 partnerships. The purpose of a partnership is so if one man catches a seal, he would divide it among his partners so their chances of eating were much better. This was basically to prevent starvation. Here is a society from a physical standpoint, lives under the most difficult conditions. Their everyday life was insecure in the sense that they had to hunt and fish. It is unclear why, but they did indeed give up their partnerships. They did still shared though, but it wasn’t to the level of partnership.
The Utkus also modernized in the sense that they never stole and they considered their wives to be very sacred. Enutiak had influence, not power. The two are casually mistaken as equal but there is indeed a significant difference. If one has power, he can punish for disobedience. On the other hand, with influence you have no police force or people to carry out your orders of punishing the insubordinate. Enutiak organized his family and household so that they were very responsive to his orders. The traditional type of marriage was through cross-cousin marriage. His wife’s name was Allaq.
Enutiak was still the king of the household but he could not mistreat his wife because her family would not tolerate such behavior. Anger was a huge deal for the Utkus. In fact, even if they were irate, they were not permitted to show their anger. This did not mean that they never had feelings of resentment or hostility, but it meant that they simply could not show it. Women, even more so, were not permitted to show their anger. There was this one instance in the book where Briggs observes several Canadians borrowing a canoe and returning it broken. They showed no attempt to fix it and just walked away as if nothing had happened.
Being that Briggs is from the United States, she caught up to the Canadians and brawled them out. Enutiak watched her confront them and saw how she conducted herself. From then on, Briggs’s relationship with the family became much more distant. This trait of not showing anger was very unusual, but the Utkus did indeed look down upon anyone who chose to illustrate anger. One of the things about the primitive religion was that the world was one big harmony, and nothing wrong happened unless one misbehaved. In general, the primitive context is far more humane than the modern context.